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Inflammatory Cns Disease In Dogs

Any breed of dog can suffer from neurological disorders which are typically covered by the term inflammatory CNS disease. The disorders negatively impact the central nervous system otherwise known as CNS. They do so by causing inflammation which occurs in certain parts of the central nervous system which can lead to a dog suffering from meningitis, encephalitis and myelitis. Each of these conditions can be primary health issues, but they are typically associated with another as well which can lead to an affected dog developing meningo-myelitis or meningo-encephalitis.

The causes

A dog can develop inflammatory CNS disease through infection, but the cause can be non-infectious too. One cause when it is infection related can be due to a dog having suffered from distemper, but other causes could be as follows:

  • Bacterial infection
  • Protozoal infection
  • Fungal infection

When it comes to the non-infectious reasons for why a dog might suffer from the condition, it can typically be put down to breed-specific health issues with examples being as follows:

  • Yorkshire Terriers can suffer from GME, an immune-mediated disorder
  • Maltese can suffer from GME, an immune-mediated disorder
  • Pugs can suffer from GME, an immune-mediated disorder

As such, studies suggest that when a dog’s immune system is negatively impacted, it can trigger CNS although more research is needed to determine why it is that an "over-excited" immune system can cause CNS in dogs too. Dogs suffering from certain forms of cancer also appear to be more susceptible to developing the condition which is also in the non-infectious category of inflammatory CNS disease.

Signs to watch out for

The signs to watch out for can vary because it depends on which part of dog’s central nervous system has been affected, in short, whether it is the meninges and/or spinal cord and/or brain where the inflammation has taken hold.

When a dog develops meningitis, the signs of there being a problem are as follows:

  • Stiff gait
  • Pain
  • A reluctance to move their necks
  • Dogs are hunched over
  • Fever - occasionally seen

When a dog develops encephalitis and myelitis the signs are of a neurological nature depending on what part of their nervous system has been negatively impacted.


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Diagnosing the condition

Diagnosing inflammatory CNS disease is challenging because there are other health issues with very similar symptoms and this includes when a dog has developed a tumour or bleed. The other problem is that meningitis and encephalitis cannot be picked up on blood tests. However, a vet would want to carry out specific tests to establish whether their suspicions are correct and these include the following:

  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • Cerebrospinal fluid analysis

A cerebrospinal fluid analysis would help establish if there is inflammation although sometimes the results can come back as being normal.

Treatment options

Treatment depends on the underlying cause of why a dog may be suffering from inflammatory CNS disease. Should it be an infection, then a vet would typically prescribe a course of antibiotics unless the infection proves to be viral or fungal. Should the cause be non-infectious, a treatment would be set in place with an end goal being to control a dog's immune system and to prevent it from being "over-excited" which a vet would do by prescribing immuno-suppressant medication which they would administer in high doses to begin with and then to slowly reduce the amount a dog receives, providing they have responded well to their treatment in the first place.

Is there a cure?

Most dogs suffering from inflammatory CNS disease can have their condition controlled and managed, although they may need to be given the medication for a longer period of time which could be over a few months to several years. When the condition is deemed extremely severe, it is often much kinder to put them to sleep as all too often dogs suffering from inflammatory CNS disease do not respond well to treatments. It is also worth noting that in some cases dogs may relapse even when they have initially shown signs of having made a full recovery.


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